The University of Wisconsin is creating a garden to honor and recognize Black sorority and fraternity chapters that are active on campus.
According to a UW press release, the garden will be named “Divine Nine Garden Plaza,” recognizing the nine national Greek-letter Black sororities and fraternities. Six of these nine Greek organizations are currently active on UW’s campus.
These six include Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Delta Sigma Theta inc. sorority, Zeta Phi Beta inc. sorority, Alpha Phi Alpha inc. fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi inc. fraternity, and Phi Beta Sigma inc. fraternity. These organizations have a combined population of 50 members, the press release said.
UW students and leaders will dedicate space for the garden plaza this Saturday on East Campus Mall across from the Walgreens on West Johnson Street, which contains a grassy area surrounded by numerous park benches. UW National Pan-Hellenic Council president Kayla Cotton said it is a great location for the garden plaza as it is in “the heart of campus,” according to the press release.
The garden plaza will feature historical markers recognizing the NPHC’s accomplishments at UW. NPHC at UW serves as the governing body for all Black Greek Letter organizations on campus.
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In an email statement to The Badger Herald, UW vice chancellor for student affairs Lori Reesor explained the importance of the garden plaza to UW’s community.
“NPHC has provided an important anchor, connection and family for our students for many years, but they haven’t had a space to call their own on campus. There are no NPHC-affiliated houses or markers at UW … and nothing is shared publicly about their contributions to our community. This garden plaza is a central campus space to honor their work, their legacy, and for our Black fraternities and sororities to be seen,” Reesor said in the statement.
The idea for the project first arose after the 2019 homecoming promotional video that sparked a conversation about racial exclusion on campus.
In response to the video, which showed little to no representation of Black students and their organizations on campus, students at UW created the Student Inclusion Coalition and demanded greater visibility for Black organizations at the university. SIC’s advocacy on campus helped further catalyze the Divine Nine garden dedication — a need UW’s Fraternity and Sorority community previously identified.
Reesor said this dedication is a step towards elevating Black organizations on campus.
“This is a movement happening across the country,” Reesor said. “To give prominence to the scholarship, sisterhood/brotherhood, philanthropy and more that NPHC chapters have provided our students for decades.”
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Student Affairs is trying to raise $250,000 through their fundraising campaign in order to fully create the garden plaza. So far, they have received $35,000 in donations. Details on donations can be found here.
Completion of the Divine Nine Garden Plaza is projected to happen in the fall of 2021, according to the press release.
The ceremony taking place April 24 will officially signify the dedication of the space for the Divine Nine Garden Plaza. The ceremony can only be attended via invitation, but there will be a live stream covering the event that can be accessed here.
This article was updated April 22 at 10:43 a.m. to clarify SIC’s involvement in the project and to include ‘inc.’ designation on all fraternities and sororities named in the article.